The taste of home

The tastes and smells of food are especially evocative when it comes to the holiday season. Be it a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings, or Hanukkah treats such as Sufganiyot, there are a multitude of options in Amsterdam to buy ready-made products or the raw ingredients to cook at home. For tips on where to pick up international ingredients, learn more about finding food from home in Amsterdam.

Religious services

Amsterdam is home to many nationalities and faiths and the liberal attitude of the city reflects this. What’s more, the high number of international residents in the city means that a variety of services are held regularly in English. For those not already a member of a local church, or simply keen to experience the special holiday atmosphere from a spiritual perspective, locations such as the English Reformed Church and Portuguese Synagogue are spectacular places to visit no matter your beliefs. Learn more about church services in English.

Holiday activities in Amsterdam

The holiday season is usually a magical time in the city. Each winter ice skating rinks pop up all over Amsterdam, which are enjoyed greatly by both residents and visitors alike. Christmas in Amsterdam is typically not as retail-centric as in North America or in the UK, but the shopping streets and festive windows still bustle with people shopping for treats and gifts. Be it in commercial areas, such as Kalverstraat, or other areas with more independent stores, such as in the ‘9 Streets’ neighbourhood, many shops operate extended opening hours during the period. Most importantly, some special Christmas markets in and around the city enabling you to buy gifts from local producers.

To set the mood, there’s a host of seasonal classical music and ballet productions throughout December and January, while the World Christmas Circus returns for its annual spectacular at Royal Theatre Carré. There’s also numerous dinner shows and winter specials.

Sending gifts and cards

When you’re sending cards or gifts during the holiday season, your local post office is typically the most accessible point for deliveries or advice. If you are sending cards within the Netherlands, PostNL sells special Christmas stamps, which cost slightly less than regular stamps, and are valid throughout December for all mail that’s 50 grams or less.

Modern technology means that it’s often incredibly popular to order bigger gifts online (via websites such as or Amazon) and have them shipped directly to the recipient. But if you’re intending to create a more personal Christmas package for loved ones, keep in mind that international shipping times are typically longer at this time of year. In general, airmail packages to North America or Asia are best sent before 5 December, while those to other Western European destinations should be mailed by 15 December.


The holiday season can bring out the best in people. Learn more about volunteering opportunities in Amsterdam, including local options for helping good causes or those less fortunate than you.

New traditions

If this is your first holiday season in Amsterdam, there may be some nuances and traditions that are still very new to you, such as the Dutch celebration of Sinterklaas, the prominence of pepernoten (spiced mini cookies) in supermarkets, or the frequent sight of oliebollen (an old-fashioned doughnut) stalls throughout the city. Learning about these new traditions first-hand, especially from Dutch friends and neighbours, is likely to create long-lasting memories of the winter holidays in Amsterdam. It can also be fun to share elements of such local traditions with your friends and family in other countries.

Find more inspiration for celebrating the holiday season in Amsterdam.